Last week, Republicans in the North Carolina state legislature overturned a Charlotte city ordinance that barred discrimination against LGBT people in creating transgender accommodation for bathroom use. In addition to overturning the ban, the law also stipulates that its ruling supervenes that of local governments.
With this law’s passing came a laundry list of statewide impositions which include a maximum cap on minimum wage salaries and a mandate that students in state schools can only use bathrooms which correspond to the gender on their birth certificate.
The latter issue, in allowing transgender residents to use the bathroom in accordance with their gender identity, proved to be the most contentious. Detractors of the ruling feared for the safety of women and girls in public bathrooms with people who were born male, while supporters of the ruling regarded these fears as overblown.
This is the latest in a string of conservative changes in North Carolina since the GOP captured the legislature in 2010. Armed with almost unlimited power in superseding the rulings of their localities, North Carolina’s GOP has exacerbated the disagreement between its state’s liberal and conservative contingencies.
Charlotte’s ordinance was passed in February after an arduous process which included over three hours of contentious public debate. However, its overturning was completed in a matter of days. This speaks to the state of acceptance in certain pockets of the United States and the legislative mechanisms which facilitate the lack thereof.
Pam Burton, a Charlotte resident who opposed the city’s ruling feared that “sexual predators will see this as a chance for fresh victims.” While Ed Driggs, a Republican who voted against the ordinance, voiced his opinion through comparison, saying “everyone is required to use the bathroom of their gender – you can’t get more equal than that. It’s not the back of the bus.”
The arguments on one side are simple: “what about sexual predators?” and “come on, it’s not as bad as it’s been.” They are also flimsy, not so much focused on finding real solutions, but on letting fear mongering justify conservative ideology.
Students at the University of Virginia have taken notice of this issue, and are expressing their disillusionment.
“Attacks happen in bathrooms already. Just because we have separate bathrooms does not mean men still do not go into women’s bathrooms and attack them,” said second-year Tyler Kernodle.
“It’s not going to stop the problem,” she continues, “There are zero cases where a genderfluid person has ever attacked a person in a bathroom. They have been attacked, but they have never attacked other people.”
These are not serious concerns. In fact, they are only acceptable because of the relative autonomy the GOP has in crafting legislation for our neighbors to the south. North Carolina’s overturning of an anti-discriminatory ordinance is the latest battle in a culture war that has split the state between its liberal cities and conservative rural areas.